Results tagged ‘ Cubs ’

Hot Stove, Cool Music tix available

Though Theo Epstein left the Red Sox for the Cubs a couple of years ago, he continues to maintain roots in his hometown. Epstein is coming back to Boston play guitar with Peter Gammons and the Hot Stove All-Stars (featuring Bill Janovitz of Buffalo Tom, Tanya Donelly of Belly, Paul Barrere of Little Feat, Cubs play-by-play guy Len Kasper and Seth Justman of J Geils Band) for his annual Hot Stove/Cool Music concert on January 11 at the Paradise on Commonwealth Avenue.

Other performers include The Baseball Project, which features Mike Mills of REM, as well as Fenway organist Josh Kantor. Also on the bill are Trigger Hippy (featuring Joan Osborne and members of the Black Crowes), Howie Day, Kingsley Flood and Kay Hanley.

All of the proceeds benefit the Foundation To Be Named Later, which supports local non-profits that assist at-risk kids, such as Horizons for Homeless Children, BELL and the Home For Little Wanderers.

Tix are $40 and doors open at 6 p.m. To purchase tickets, click here: http://hscm.tickets.musictoday.com/HotStoveCoolMusic/calendar.aspx

Theo backed up his first words

Tomorrow, Theo Epstein starts Chapter 2 as a Major League general manager, leaving quite a legacy behind in Boston as he takes over as President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs.

When Epstein took over, we knew he was young and smart. Did we know he’d be able to lead the Red Sox to their first two championships since 1918? How could anybody know that?

I thought this would be as good a time as any to go back to what Epstein said at his initial press conference on Nov. 25, 2002, when he was promoted in the very same room — back then it was the .406 club, now it’s the State Street Pavilion — where Ben Cherington will get his coronation tomorrow. It’s equally fun to go back and listen to what the Red Sox said about Epstein the day they formally gave him the job.

Why did the Sox select Epstein as their GM when Billy Beane turned the job down?

“We’ve selected him for his intellect; we’ve selected him for his character. We’ve selected him for his passion for baseball, his knowledge and history and passion for the Red Sox,” said Larry Lucchino almost nine years ago. “For the breadth of his work experience. And for the ability to bring people together and work together in new and innovative ways. We think Theo Epstein has a chance to be an outstanding long-term general manager of the Red Sox.”

Yes, six postseason berths, four LCS’s and two championships over nine years could be classified as an “outstanding long-term general manager of the Red Sox.”

So why did John Henry think Theo was the guy?
“He has been a constant source of ideas, energy and intelligence for us since he came home to Boston,” Henry said on Nov. 25, 2002. “He joins a select group of young and highly talented general managers in today’s game who are revolutionizing baseball. We believe he will excel from day one.”

Well, pretty much. Epstein put together a formidable team in that winter of ’02-03 and the Red Sox nearly made it to the World Series in his first season.

Epstein, thinking of people like Ben Cherington and Jed Hoyer no doubt, promised he would not reach his goals alone.

“But no one person is going to turn the Red Sox into a world championship organization,” said Epstein. “It’s going to happen, but it’s going to be a group effort. It’s going to be through collective hard work and through our collective wisdom.  Our short-term goal is to win and win a World Series, and that starts with getting to the postseason. So if you need to write down what our goal is for 2003, it’s to make the postseason.”

Short term goals were all reached.

What would his style be?

“My management style is to solicit opinions of those around me, those older and wiser,” said Epstein. “Hear not only what they have to say, but why. I want to hear why you have your opinions. As Chuck Tanner said, baseball is an opinion. We’re going to turn every issue over and over again. At the appropriate time, I’ll step in and act.”

At first, Epstein relied heavily on the late Bill Lajoie. In later years, he trusted Allard Baird and others greatly. Epstein never tried to act as if he was acting all on his own will.

“Our first organizational goal is winning and winning soon,” said Epstein. “Our second organizational goal is creating an atmosphere where we can sustain that type of competitiveness and that type of success long term.

If not for a barrage of injuries in 2010 and a historic collapse this time, Epstein’s regime could have been eight postseason appearances in nine years. Either way, his team was competitive and had success long term.

How was Epstein going to back up these big words?

“How do we create this environment where we’re going to sustain competitiveness and success? We’re going to turn the Red Sox into a scouting and player development machine. Every time I say this around the office, we all get excited because the sky is the limit. I’ll say it again, we’re going to become a scouting and player development machine,” Epstein said. “That means we’re going to draft exceptionally well. We’re going to sign our players. We’re going to have an idea on what kind of players we’re going to develop. We’re going to get to a point where every year great young players are coming up through the system into the Major Leagues, giving us flexibility and talent.”

Jonathan Papelbon. Dustin Pedroia. Jacoby Ellsbury. Clay Buchholz. Daniel Bard. Justin Masterson. Casey Kelly, Reymond Fuentes and Anthony Rizzo turned into Adrian Gonzalez. Ah yes, a scouting and player development machine.

“Once we reach that point, we’ll have created that player development and scouting machine. We have a chance to win in 2003, and win it all. If we build the scouting and player development machine, we’ll have an opportunity to say that every year.”

There wasn’t one year in Epstein’s tenure where you could look at the Red Sox in Spring Training and not have a legitimate chance to win a World Series.

And finally some closing thoughts from Larry Lucchino nine years ago.

“This is no longer your father’s Oldsmobile, to borrow from that commercial,” Lucchino said. “The Red Sox are determined to do new and innovative things to work with new approaches, to use new people, to push the envelope, so to speak, for baseball. We will do so while blending into that mix the reverence, respect and traditions and history of the Red Sox and baseball. He is a very strong-willed and independently willed person. Anybody who knows him will tell you that.”

Tomorrow, Epstein will give his mission statement in Chicago. Three hours later, Cherington will give his at Fenway.

Theo off to Cubbies; Cherington to be unveiled Tuesday

Finally, it’s done. After multiple weeks of heavy speculation, and over a week since Theo Epstein agreed on a contract with the Chicago Cubs, he is now the president of baseball operations for a team that hasn’t won the World Series since 1908.

Because of the World Series, both teams will hold off on press conferences until Tuesday, at which time perhaps the compensation package coming to the Red Sox will be revealed.

Ben Cherington, Epstein’s long-time lieutenant, will also be unveiled as general manager of the Red Sox at that time.

Epstein’s tenure with the Red Sox — which lasted a month short of nine years if you take away his two-month sabbatical — was certainly a memorable one.

At the age of 28,  Epstein, the youngest general manager in baseball history, vowed he would turn the Red Sox into scouting and player development machine. He vowed to turn them into a team that was competitive year in and year out. More or less, he accomplished his goals, albeit with more success in his first six seasons in office than his last three.

In Epstein’s first six years, the Sox made it to the ALCS four times, won two World Series, made the playoffs five times and posted an October record of 34-20. Over his last three seasons, the Sox made the playoffs just once, going 0-3.

Now, Epstein will try to turn the Cubs into a scouting and player development machine, and end their World Series that stretches back to 1908.

It will be interesting to see what Cherington will do as the GM. At the age of 37, he is well groomed for his new role.

Cherington has long worked under Epstein. He actually predates his former boss in the Red Sox organization.

Cherington was hired by the Red Sox in 1999 as a mid-Atlantic area scout and joined the baseball operations department in May of that year. The New Hampshire native was named the club’s director of player development in 2002 and served in that role until December, 2005, when he became co-GM of the Red Sox, along with Jed Hoyer, when Epstein resigned from the GM post for two months. Cherington worked as vice president of player personnel for three years before being promoted to the role of assistant GM in January 2009.

He has quite the offseason in front of him. First of all, there is the task of finding a new manager.

Then there are key personnel decisions. Do the Sox keep David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon? What to do about right field and shortstop? Do you let the old guard of Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek go?

All this and more will be answered in the coming weeks, as the Cherington regime commences.

Theo departure by Tuesday?

When the story broke last Wednesday that Theo Epstein had agreed to a five-year contract with the Cubs, most of us felt his coronation in Chicago — and Ben Cherington’s in Boston — would happen within the next day or two.

But as tends to happen with these things, it has dragged out, with both sides trying to make the best compensation deal possible.

For those of us who would just love to see this thing get resolved one way or the other, it’s probably good that there’s somewhat of an artificial deadline in place.

The World Series starts Wednesday night in St. Louis. MLB has a very strong policy of not wanting any major announcements to trump the Fall Classic.

I don’t think either side wants this situation to drag past the World Series, which would end on Oct. 23 at the absolute earliest.

This is a major offseason for both teams. The Red Sox need to find a new manager, and then have several key personnel decisions to make. The Cubs obviously have some big decisions to make as well — moves that are all but certain to be made by Epstein.

I’m guessing two Tuesday afternoon press conferences — one at Wrigley for Epstein and one in Boston for Cherington.

Henry, Lucchino talk Epstein, other things

In a wide-ranging interview with WEEI this morning — and simulcast on NESN — Red Sox owner John Henry and president/CEO Larry Lucchino ran through the gamut of topics that have engulfed the club since the season ended way earlier than anyone could have expected.

How stunning is this that you didn’t play in October?

Henry: “I think, weren’t people writing at that point of the season that this was the greatest Red Sox team ever?”

Did you assume the Sox were in? Henry: “You never assume. In other business as well, you never assume that you’re going to accomplish your goals until you accomplish them.”

Lucchino: “I think that was a reasonable assumption at that point, given the lead, where we were in the season. and the statistical probabilities of what would happen. Certainly none of us anticipated a collapse of biblical proportions that we endured.”

Tito was a little cryptic about where it all went wrong, Henry: “Uh, there was some cryptic-ness when we met. You remember, we had problems over the years with certain players. Like Manny Ramirez, for instance, was a problem at one point for the manager. But he had his back, because that’s the clubhouse culture. As a manager, you don’t throw your players under the bus. You do everything you can to make them productive and keep them that way. In this case, we didn’t get any information along those lines at that point.”

Allegations that starting pitchers were drinking in the clubhouse during games? Lucchino: “There are certain principles that are important within the clubhouse culture. I think that’s one of them. it’s not something that we think should be tolerated. There’s a rule about it and it should be enforced. It was much after the fact that that was brought to our attention. We’re still trying to dig in, trying to figure out how pervasive it was, how extensive it was and not try to superficially conclude that it was a major factor in anything.”

When did Titanic hit iceberg? Henry: “We didn’t just hit an iceberg. Every day we went, what, 7-20? This was a team that was going 20-7 and suddenly went 7-20. So it was throughout that process that we began to wonder, why is this team breaking down? This is the second straight year that on Aug. 1 we looked great and looked like we were headed for a potential World Series and second straight year that the team broke down physically. I’ve been reading somewhat what the media has been saying. I haven’t heard enough about that. that was the concern that started at some point during that decline. The biggest concern we had was we’re just not doing well physically.”

Subpar physical fitness? Lucchino: “It’s certainly an issue that’s important to us, physical conditioning. That’s another one of the issues we are looking into examining. It’s our responsibility to try to right this ship and give the fans what we promised when we got here, which is a team worthy of their support. We’re going to do that. We’re going to look into the whole conditioning issue. I take exception to pointing to any individual. I don’t want to talk about any individual in particular. But I will talk about the general notion that our team has to be in first class physical condition. And as John said, the last couple of years, we’ve seen a dramatic decline at the end of the season. That is one of a myriad of issues to look at going forward.”

Pitchers out of shape? You looking into that. Henry: “Yeah, the day before yesterday, I spoke with a couple of our medical people and the trainers and so forth just to try to get an idea. We’re still early in this process and that’s one of the reasons there hasn’t been a lot to say. You don’t want to go off half cocked because one person said this. Talking to a few people, one thing thus far that I’ve been able to establish is that the pitchers did their work. They did their cardiovascular. This organization is as good as any in baseball, I’m told, at doing their work. What is their work? Cardiovascular, shoulder exercise is very important. Very important. We have very little in the way of shoulder problems, as compared to other clubs. They did their leg work. Some of the people, including the person you mentioned [Josh Beckett], are adamant. That’s what they do. They don’t shirk those responsibilities.

“Were there nutritional issues was another question I asked? Yes. I believe there were nutritional issues and there’s just, one of the things we’ve learned in getting involved with English football is they have sports science and the science of fitness is very advanced among football teams around the world, at least the top football teams. So we’ve learned a lot just recently. Our people within the Red Sox have learned a lot. I think there’s much more we can do. to me, the most important thing is this is the third time in six years, and certainly the second straight which a great team just couldn’t make it through 162 games physically. And it wasn’t just one or two players. We were really banged up. We were really struggling to put healthy players on the field. every team has to be able to make it through 162 games. Two years in a row we didn’t do it.”

Tito mentioned something about lack of support/encouragement from ownership as things unraveled: Henry: “I don’t engage in encouragement. My way of encouraging the manager is generally, if we win, I’ll go down and say hello. My experience over the years is they really don’t want a lot of interracation from our level when things aren’t going well. But every once in a while, I will send over the years, I would send Terry an e-mail and basically say, you’re doing a great job, which I did this year, or we’re going to be fine. I’m probably the person inside among Tom and Larry and Theo and Tito, among all of us, I’m probably the person who most often says, we’ll be fine. The problem is we weren’t fine this year. “

Lucchino: “We did make an effort as things were proceeding in the wrong direction in September, certainly we made an effort before games. I would go down on the field and certainly not pep talks, but just try to engage some conversation to show that we were in this together and to try to beat as comfortable as I could around players, the manager and coaches.”

If you had picked up Tito’s option, he would have stayed. Why did you leave that until after the season? Lucchino:  “It was certainly something we considered during the course of the year. you have to go back a step and understand the contract arrangement we had with Tito which was, we gave him a long term deal and we agreed we would not talk about options until the end of the fourth year. We said there would be a 10-day period. The first order of business after the season would be to talk about options but we don’t want the distraction of that happening during the year. because we had it during ’08. The first part of the ’08 season was all about contracts and his situation, dealing with agents and all that. so I think he understood. It’s not something that was  going to happen during the course of the season. In fact, to his credit, he never said what do you think about my option. His agent never called us. There were never any discussions. We always anticipated that discussion would take place as understood, the first 10 days, the first order of business in the offseason.”

Was this mutual with Tito?  Henry: “Well we really didn’t get a chance to make it mutual. Thinking about it, would we have ended up in the same place he ended up? Based on the things we heard and the things we saw, there’s a strong likelihood that we would have. So you could say it was mutual. The way it took place, in my mind, wasn’t really mutual, the way it took place.”

Lucchino: “We had a conversation about, again, that first day after the season, we sat for an hour and a half, two hours, talking about the season. We went through challenge after challenge and various reasons for the breakdown. We talked to tito about whether he was ready for this challenge, given all the challenges he had enumerated. He made clear to us that he wasn’t. You need a new voice down there. I’m not your man for next year. I think my time here is up. In some ways, he took that position and that is a very determinative factor when your manager feels like there needs to be a change. He did a fantastic job for us over the years. remember, he was contemplating his ninth year in this pressure cooker that is Boston. Different teams require different skillsets or different talents and I think he made an assessment with which we concurred that to that extend, it was mutual, and the word mutual does fit. Still, it was a sad occasion nonetheless. There was no joy that day. we had a myriad of problems identified for us and a manager who suggested in pretty clear terms that we should [move on].”

If they made the playoffs, does Tito still leave? Lucchino: “I’m not sure. I think the same process would unfold. We’d sit down as planned the first 10 days. the first order of business after the season, sit down and talk and find out. it takes to tango. Again, we’re talking about the ninth year. Tito was the second longest duration in Red Sox history, 110 years. you have to find if the manager is still ready for the challenge.”

So the Cubs requested permission to speak with Theo, eh? Henry: “How do you know that? how do you know that?

Lucchino:  “Those things are supposed to be kept private and we have a policy of not discussing whether permission has been asked for x or y or z. In fact, every year we get requests for people. We never discuss them publicly. It’s been our policy and our practice.”

You haven’t denied it though, right? Lucchino: “But our position on that is that we don’t comment on requests. We have gotten requests every year. sometimes one or two or three a year. we don’t talk about them publicly. A few years ago, we got a request from another team about Theo Epstein. You heard nothing about that because we didn’t discuss it publicly. I think there’s good reason for it too. There’s some privacy considerations here. I don’t know that people would want their career development or their job decisions to be debated publicly, for people to know what they’re considering or not considering. And I’m not sure the other team would like that to be made public. Our consistent policy and practice is not to discuss whether there’s been a request made for permission.”

Do you usually give permission? Lucchino: “I’ll tell you what we have done. We have done both in the past. There are numerous individual. I mentioned that Theo was one of them in the past. We’ve had a number of our high ranking people move on.”

If Team A comes to you and says, we’d like to talk to Theo, would you grant them permission? Henry, “There is a certain protocol in this game. if someone asks permission for a job that’s not lateral, you give them permission. Now I’m sure there are examples where it didn’t happen. I’m sure we’ve done that in the past.”

Lucchino, “We don’t mean to sound evasive on this but this is one subject where we don’t think there needs to be full disclosure. Our fans have a keen interest in knowing as much about this team as we can possibly know. There are some thigns that come up against the lines of personal privacy, where there are some considerations that should be factored into it, and that’s where we are with respect to this thing.”

Can you hire a manager without knowing who your GM is? Lucchino, “We’re actively engaged in that search for a new manager. We’re not sitting around twiddling our thumbs. There’s a lot to be done. Theo is actively engaged day to day in that search. We just had a meeting with him the other day going through a list of candidates, possibilities. Ben Cherington is actively involved in the process. Certainly John, Tom and I are involved in it as well. That process is moving ahead. It’s not going to happen overnight. There will be some time that will pass. There’s a lot to work to be done and Theo and Ben are knee-deep in doing it. “

Interview anyone yet? “Not yet. I think one point needs to be made. As I look out over the landscape of what’s been said over the last couple of weeks, I don’t think people understand the governance of the Red Sox. when we talk about a manager, general manager issues, when we talk about important decisions that are made here, this isn’t John or it isn’t Larry. We really, over the last 10 years, have consistently done things collectively. This is a collective process. We’re intimately involved in the managers search. It’s not just theo that’s involved. With regard to what happened with the manager’s situation previously, we made collective decisions. We build consensus. When we signed Adrian Gonzalez, that’s not a one person decision. It’s not just the general manager. That being said, we’re very good, sometimes we’re too chain of command;  Larry and I don’t make baseball decisions.”

Lucchino: “Let me just add that Tom Werner is a critical part of this as well, though he is not here today. In this instance, he is an active part of this process. We are a better organization because of the collaboration, the input. If you take Tom and myself, we’ve probably got like 45 or 50 years collectively of running major league baseball franchises. We take advantage of that experience. We collaborate , we debate.”

Theo’s recent struggles with free agents:  Henry: “I think that’s one of the problems in baseball. It’s hard to predict things. it’s hard to predict performance going forward. When I look back over the last 10 years, and the last eight years with Tito being here and the last nine years Theo has been here, I look at what we’ve accomplished, every year, including this year, I felt we were headed to a World Series. Not the only thing, but the biggest thing to us every year is playing in October. that’s what we do. that’s we spend all our time doing is trying to create an atmosphere. People talk about, we’re business oriented. Well we’re business oriented for one reason. This guy is a tremendous revenue generator for one reason, and that is to be able to give the right people the amount of money it takes to be successful. You can criticize the things he’s done but we’ve averaged, what, 92, 93 wins?“

Horrific finish: Lucchino:  “We are not unmindful of that. This was a disappointing torturous end of the season. As John said earlier, we watch every game. we suffer. We’re in this because we’re competitive people. Go back to December 21st, 2001, our very first press conference. The very first thing we said was, we have an obligation to field a team that’s worthy of the fans support. We feel that now. Believe me, it hurts not to be playing right now. This kind of weather. Walking around the ballpark, I keep thinking, we should be playing. It’s cold comfort, the sense of schandefraude that comes from the Yankees losing. That’s not a noble emotion. We have it. but we should be out there playing. We want that every year and we’ve had a good run at it but the challenges next year are real, they’re there and we’re prepared to deal with them.”

Is Theo the right guy to keep spending John Henry’s money?  Henry: “He is but I think everyone has to understand a couple of things and I think Tito alluded to it. I think there’s a certain shelf life in these jobs. You can only be the general manager if you’re sane. You can only be the general manager …. You can only be the manager for a certain amount of time. There’s a tremendous pressure cooker here –  162 games. It’s a long season and the pressure here is 365 days. Theo is not going to be the general manager forever.  Just as , if Tito had come back for the last two years, would he have gone past 10 years, I can’t imagine that he would have. I think that Theo will … he’s the guy now, he’s been the guy. We’ve had tremendous success. We fell apart at the end of the season. As Larry expressed, we’re upset about it. No fan could be more upset than I am about the result this year. He’s done a tremendous job for us over the last eight years.”

Can you hire a manager until you are sure who your GM is? Lucchino, “I think it’s not desirable to proceed that way if you don’t know who this person’s immediate boss is. I’ve been in situations where that has happened. I think the more desirable scenario is the one you first outlined, that there’s a certainty and a continuity with respect to general manager that would be in place before you pull a trigger on a manager but I’ve seen the opposite occur. Let me remind you that we hired Tery Francona some time in late November, it may have even been the first couple of days of December in 2003. There is time to address this issue. This is an important issue, the manager of this team and the manager of this team in this pressure cooker that is Boston.”

Why Tito over Joe Maddon eight years ago? Lucchino: “Theo should be here to discuss that as well. He certainly had a strong opinion on that. They were both good. Two different flavors of ice cream but they were both good. I think at the time, the sense was that Francona’s history was clearer and that maybe the kind of easy rider we understood him to be would be appropriate for that team. That was my recollection of it.”

What do you want in a manager, Henry: “Well, I think what we were looking for last time, in that we have a certain organizational philosophy and we want someone that is highly intelligent. Someone who can communicate with the players and be able to get the best out of the players. I think we lean in general toward player managers. The most important thing for me, if I had to choose one aspect, is that he really fits into our organizational philosophy.”

Could you kick the tires on someone like Joe Torre or Bobby Valentine: “I’m not going to talk about anyone individually. Would we consider experienced well established managers who are not young, who have been around a bit? The answer is yes.”

Can John Lackey bounce back? Henry: “I think so.”

Lucchino: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

How can you say that? Lucchino: “Can he come back? I say yes he can. I’m not predicting necessarily when he will or if he will. But I’m saying can he? Yes. He’s a guy with an established track record. You have to look beyond the past year or so. Again, it depends on what your level of expectation is for various individuals.”

Just because of the recent difficulty with the success of free agent signings, will the Sox shy away this winter? Lucchino, “We’re not going to turn off any avenue to improve this team. Particularly this year. We’re not going to say, no, we’re not going to dive into the free agent market because of the recent record has not been as successful as we might like. No, we’re going to explore free agency, we’re going to explore trade,s we’re going to explore waiver wire, minor league free agents, international signings. We’re going to look at the whole of possibilities. The challenges are very real for this next year so yes, we will explore free agency.”

Do you keep Ortiz and Papelbon because they’ve proven they can produce in this market? “Those players you identify have leverage because of their performance. Their performance has been substantial here and with that comes a bit of leverage, to be sure. Does that mean we can not find players elsewhere that can fit in? we think we can. It doesn’t mean we’re always right but we think we have a process that theo and our baseball operations takes into consideration makeup and ability to deal with this city and Carl Crawford has had one bad year. This is one year of a long term commitment. It’s too early to say this is a guy who cannot play in Boston. We’ll see about that.”

WWJDD?

What will Johnny Damon do? Shocking, really, that he’s yet to find a home. Damon proved last season that he still has a lot to offer on a baseball field. I think he was a huge difference-maker in Game 4 of the World Series, working the pivotal at-bat of the series, and then making that memorable double steal.

Every year, one guy seems to get left out in the cold. Last year it was Bobby Abreu. This year it’s Damon. I think the Rays are the team that makes the most sense for Damon. He would get to stay in the American League East, the division he’s played in the last eight years. Damon lives in the Orlando area, so he could commute to work. Really, it would be a perfect situation. He is exactly the type of player the Rays could use. I’m sure Gabe Kapler will give him a ringing endorsement.

Another one of the lovable “Idiots” from 2004 found work today, with word surfacing through ESPN.com that Kevin Millar will sign with the Cubs, a Minor League deal with an invite to Spring Training. I think he will be great for that clubhouse, and obviously he knows what it’s like to help relax a team that hasn’t won a World Series for the better part of the century.

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